NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Connecticut officials gathered Wednesday to say the national 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is already making a difference in the state.

“I know that they care and that they connect, and that they don’t rush,” said Steve MacHattie, a clinical social worker and therapist with Charter Oak Family Center.

“Once the new line became active on July 15 of this year, calls to our state crisis contact team have been up 50%,” Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz (D-Conn.) said.

The new 988 number puts callers in contact with a trained crisis contact specialist. You can also text the number. Contacting 988 does not mean a police officer will show up at your door.

“We feel like it’s very important for people to know that they can reach out for help and that it’s not a direct line to 911 or police intervention,” said Tanya Barret, senior vice resident of 2-1-1 Connecticut’s Health and Human Services, a division of the United Way of Connecticut. “Our trained specialists only escalate when there is an imminent risk to the safety of an individual or those around them”

So far, Connecticut is getting high grades for how it’s handling those calls, ranking third in the country for how quickly those 988 calls are putting people in touch with critical help.

“The call centers operated by the United Way here in Connecticut are ranked near the top of the nation with a 98% answer rate,” said Nancy Navarretta, the commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction. “That’s fabulous.”

About 400 people in Connecticut died by suicide in 2021, placing the state sixth from the bottom in national suicide rankings. The hope is with the new hotline, the number will drop even lower.

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.